One morning in January 2005, I boarded a C&J bus for the first leg of my day trip to New York to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates.” It was a memorable day. The beauty of the visual spectacle of the floating orange curtains along the paths, promenades and hills of Central Park was matched by the spirit of the people — the joy and delight of reveling in the bright color against the snow, the feeling of fellowship we felt amidst this glorious, temporary display.
Every year in September, we have our own much more modest but still stirring event, Sculpture at Maudslay. There are 30 sculptures in this year’s 15th annual show that was coordinated by Bert Snow. The theme is “Intertwine.” The works rest on the ground, are suspended overhead and hang from trees. They range in size from a small book by a Moseley descendant to a sculpture carved in a 7-foot-tall piece of New Hampshire granite. They are made from wood, clay, stone, piano parts, plastic, metal, twine, tyvek, wire and yarn.
Sculpture at Maudslay begins in the spring when the theme is chosen. Participating artists are asked, but not required, to make work that connects to it. In May, proposals are submitted. Each artist chooses three sites within the designated area and rates them as first, second and third choices. A walk-through is held to make sure the spots marked on the map are the ones that artists did in fact choose and any conflicts are resolved. The artists are flexible and the site always goes to the piece that needs it the most. Ideally, we all work on our sculptures over the summer. For many of us, there are years when we turn the calendar to September, count the days to installation and begin work in a concentrated burst. All the work is carefully sited and, in many cases, designed specifically for a particular site.
The wonderful thing about Sculpture at Maudslay is that we all feel free to experiment. The exhibitors range from artists with lengthy resumes to newcomers to art. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all feel supported by our fellow artists and by the viewing public. There is an unspoken agreement between us all that, in the spirit of the gift of the beautiful space that is Maudslay State Park, we approach all the art with a generous and open heart.
For me, Sculpture at Maudslay has a life beyond these three weeks in September. Just as I will never walk in Central Park again without seeing echoes of “The Gates,” I always feel the resonance of past sculptures in Maudslay State Park. In 2011, I did an interactive piece called “Play at Maudslay.” Small blank books of Tyvek hung from a tree branch and visitors were invited to contribute their thoughts and feelings about the park. My little book told mine:
Ever since I participated in my first Maudslay outdoor sculpture exhibition, the park has changed for me. It has become a richer, more vibrant place. It is populated not just by trees, shrubs, bridges, ponds, wildflowers, wildlife and visitors, but by the echoes of past sculptures. I can’t walk by the pond without seeing Ann McCrea’s frogs, pass the tree by the wall and not want to pull the cord and make Bert Snow’s branches move, or look down the green corridor and not be amazed by David Davies’ orange portal. I still see John Ashworth’s sticks moving in the wind, hear Jay Havighurst’s instrument chorus in the garden and Cameron Sesto’s prayer wheel as I view the river. There are too many more to mention, but they are all here, layered in time and space, adding to the offerings of nature and history in this magical place.
Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord lives in Newburyport.